So, its finally happened! The DVSA yesterday (12/8/17) announced that learner drivers will be allowed to drive on motorway's from next year. The date is to be confirmed but it means that provisional licence holders will finally be allowed to get proper training on how to drive on and deal with motorways before passing their driving test. The new rule applies only to car divers, motorcycles won't be allowed, and the tuition must be with an approved driving instructor and in a dual controlled car. There will be no change to the driving test to include motorways, so this extra training would be on a voluntary basis for those interested in gaining the valuable experience of motorway driving with their instructor. Mile for mile motorways are the UK's safest roads, but a great many newly qualified drivers say that they find the thought of motorway driving scary and some would even avoid driving on them at all. So this new rule at least opens the door for leaners to try the experience while under the watchful eye of their instructor in a dual controlled vehicle. I for one am looking forward to taking my first learner for a run down the M1 and M62 next year.
It's been announced today (14th April 2017) that the car driving test will change on 4th December this year to 'make sure new drivers have the skills they’ll need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving'.
There are 4 main changes to the test...
1. The independent part of the test will increase from 10 minutes to 20 minutes.
2. The candidate will have to follow directions from a Sat Nav which will provided and programmed by the driving examiner.
3. The reverse manouevre's will be changed and will now include parallel park at the side of the road, park in a bay - either driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out (the examiner will tell you which you have to do) or pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for 2 car lengths and rejoin the traffic.
4. The Show and Tell safety questions will be split in two with the 'tell me' question done while stationary at the test centre and the 'show me' question done whilst driving.
The new test will still last for approx 40 minutes and the marking system will remain un-changed with up to 15 driver faults allowed but one serious fault meaning a fail.
I have been testing and using Sat Nav for a while now, see my previous post, so will be introducing it and the new changes to my customers over the coming months so they are fully prepared for the new format.
Watch the official video about the new test below.
As from today, 1st March 2017 you will get 6 points on your licence and a £200 fine if you're caught using your mobile phone while driving. If you get caught twice for the same offence you will be required to attend court where you could be fined up to £1000. This new ruling has serious ramifications for new drivers who have held their licence for less than 2 years as being caught just once will mean they have to forfeit their licence and re-take both the theory and practical tests again. Road safety website 'Think" has all the details of the new rules at www.think.direct.gov.uk
To be clear the new rules apply to not only making phone calls but also following maps, taking or making texts and engaging in social media while behind the wheel. You CAN still use a mobile phone if you are safely parked or to call 999 in an emergency when its unsafe or impractical to stop. Using 'hands free' is not illegal but if it distracts you and affects your ability to drive safely then you can still be prosecuted by the police. The advice being given today is to put your phone away when you get in the car and make your glovebox your phone box!
It's hoped that these new rules will prevent accidents caused by drivers being distracted by their mobile devices and so save lives.
In a world where we are becoming increasingly dependent on our mobile devices for 'staying in touch' it should come as no surprise that using a mobile phone while driving is becoming more and more the excepted 'norm', especially among young inexperienced drivers who know that it's illegal but are prepared to take the risk of getting caught. Currently being caught using a mobile in the car has a £100 fine and 3 points on the licence, but under new proposals the government is looking to increase that to 6 points and a £200 fine. This would mean that a driver holding a full licence for less than 2 years would automatically get a ban and be made to re-take both the theory and practical driving tests again. It's hoped that this new system will make all drivers but especially newly qualified ones think twice before using a mobile phone on the move.
Do I agree with this new harder line? Absolutely. Most new drivers suffer from the over confidence thing and always assume it won't happen to them. We've all been there. But the distraction of a mobile device in a car is something that needs to be tackled head on before it results in a head on collision. Will it prove an effective deterrent to todays mobile addicted drivers, only time will tell. The new rules should come into force in 2017.
With a candidates ability to follow directions from a Sat Nav being considered for the revised driving test in 2017, I wondered which system would work best for me and my pupils during training. For the 'new' test the examiner will provide a stand alone unit like a Tom Tom or Garmin with a pre programmed route for the candidate to follow during the now extended 20 minute independent driving part of the test. But in the real world I believe most people would use their beloved smart phone's built-in map facility, ie Google maps on Android or Apple maps on the iPhone. With this in mind I have recently been testing all the main contenders to find the best way of teaching this valuable life skill to my pupils.
I borrowed a Tom Tom and a Garmin Sat Nav unit and tried driving some routes around Scarborough with mostly pretty good results, apart from some very strange street name pronunciations. I found these units easy enough to use but some of my pupils struggled a bit at first but then soon had their routes programmed in. Then I moved to the smart phones and their Apple and Google maps, which for some reason I assumed would be inferior to the dedicated units, but I was in for a surprise. Apple maps was clean and precise with a nice screen presentation but even at full volume was difficult to hear directions clearly in the car. Google maps also had a clean and easy to read screen but more importantly the audio was much clearer and gave a lot more driver information including properly pronounced street names. After all the testing I think it's right to assume that the majority of my pupils will take the easy route (excuse the pun) and turn to their smart phone to get directions after passing their test, so am planning on using Google maps on an iPhone as my in-car training tool and offering Apple maps to those that would prefer it. The Tom Tom and Garmin have gone back and I have a sneaking suspicion that like a lot of 'old tech' their day's maybe numbered as smart phones take over as source of all knowledge!
Anybody remember map books?
As a driving instructor it's vital to have the right car, but what IS the right car?
I've been looking around for a replacement for my Citroen DS3 and have realised that although my current car is only 18 months old, technology has moved on quite a bit with most cars now bristling with high tech specifications. Automatic lights and wipers now seem standard on many models as well as bluetooth equipped stereo's, 'Stop Start' technology, DAB radios and Sat Nav's. Now, anybody who know's me will tell you that I love my tech, but to be honest this level of automation in a car used for driving tuition is simply a waste of time. After all, I would expect my learner to know WHEN to turn on the lights or wipers and not wait for some in-built sensor to do it for them. Same with the now common 'hill hold' feature that means a learner doesn't need to know when to use a handbrake or use clutch control on a hill to control the car safely. It's been a revelation watching the faces of the car salesmen as I've said that all these 'features' are just not needed for my use case and is there an option to 'turn them off'?
It's obviously a sign of the times that this extra 'kit' is included in new car specifications and most people would get lots of use out of it, but just not we instructors. Give me a comfy basic car to teach in any day over the high tech super mini's. Now, I've just got to find one...
Having been 'rear ended' last year by a young lady who was texting her friend, I thought I would share this video which has been on YouTube for a while now, but is one that I think we can all learn from. In car 'distractions' are increasing all the time with phones, sat nav's and even our friends all taking our minds off the all important job of 'driving' the car. And when things do go wrong its often other innocent people that get hurt, or worse, die because of us being 'distracted'. I think this video should be shown to all new drivers and even played out on national television at an appropriate time for everybody to see. It's graphic, but it needs to be!
The other day one of my pupils rather sheepishly asked me if it was OK if her dad came along on her next lesson as he wanted to see how she was doing. When I said yes of course she looked a little surprised. I explained that It's an unusual request but one that I was happy to accommodate especially when the pupil is having private practice between lessons. It's very common for a parent to (wrongly) assume that learning to drive is still the same as it was when they took their test back in the 1970's or 80's and teach their offspring the same way, including all the bad habits that they may have picked up through the years. Apart from the current driving test being longer, a lot more involved and certainly harder than the 'old' test, we as instructors are also looking to teach our pupils more than just vehicle control but also to instil the wider aspects of safe driving such as attitude to other road users within our lessons. In seeing and experiencing a lesson first hand it enables the parent to work 'with' and not against the instructor by offering their kids confusing or conflicting advice. There is also the added benefit that parents who sit in on a professional lesson can judge for themselves the quality of the tuition being provided which is important when you consider the investment of time, effort and of course, money. Next lesson dad did indeed come along and both he and my pupil enjoyed the experience with dad saying he would try to carry on the same level of tuition when he took his daughter out practising. Result!
Over the last couple of years I have been exploring the world of in-car dash cams as a way of recording the spurious 'goings on' in front of my car while out teaching. I originally settled on the 'Mobius' action cam for about a year as this gave good results at an affordable price. However, the 'Mobius' suffered from something which is common to all dash cams, reflection of the cars interior in the windscreen glass which quite often would spoil the recorded picture. In an effort to improve things I have recently been testing the 'Next Base' range which includes the 402G awarded the 2015 'Which Magazine' Best Buy, a great camera but one which still suffered from the pesky windscreen reflection problem. I then tried the next model in the range, the 512G which comes with a 'anti glare' polarising filter over the lens, a worlds first for a dash cam. This small addition makes a world of difference to the recorded picture quality and I now have one installed in my tuition vehicle. The video AND audio from these little camera's is simply amazing and means that I can constantly monitor and record the road ahead and should I have an accident the video would provide proof of liability to my insurance company. Some insurance companies now offer a reduction in premiums if a dash cam is fitted in your car.
As with most things in life, there are cheaper options BUT if you want a fantastic quality picture and sound from your dash cam I would highly recommend the Next Base 512G which is readily available from Halfords, Amazon and other good retailers.
In the 'olden days' when everything was in black and white, the only place a driving instructor could advertise was in the local paper or the yellow pages, both of which are all but extinct these days. Luckily after over 25 years of teaching I'm in a position to not need to advertise any more, but it doesn't do any harm to get your name 'out there', so I have occasionally offered a few 'half price vouchers' via my friends at Yorkshire Coast Radio. My latest batch of 5 vouchers went on sale at 8am this morning (Thursday) and had sold out by lunchtime which is great news and shows that there is a demand for such things. The vouchers get 5 new learners on the road at a reduced price but just as importantly get me some extra exposure on-line, on air and also some great free advertising on the Yorkshire Coast Radio website as we head into what is traditionally a quiet time of year. It's a very different world to the one I started in back in 1988 with a 8x1 classified advert in the Top Trader each week, but you have to move with the times. Looking forward to welcoming my 5 new students and the journey to making them into safe drivers.
These are the musings of Kevin Jewison ADI owner of this driving school and website.